Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Toilets while travelling

It's always a bit of a worry.  What kind of toilets will I have to endure while travelling? Horror stories abound. I am hoping for the kind of toilet shown in the clip below. That's not asking too much, is it? Shame I'm not traveling to the Philippines.

Monday, December 29, 2014

I have to fly soon

Fast approaching is my date with international air travel. I'm going over the other side of the world to check up on my mum and dad for 10 days.  Recent news events are not helping my nerves. I am not a great traveller. I like to stay home. Deep breath.  Wish our airport had some of these guys helping out.

HT A holy experience

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Make your own wooden pliers

Cool.  Just the thing to do over a long summer - learn to make your own working wooden pliers with just ten cuts.

HT 22words

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Who's in charge of the Big Bad Tablet?

One of our children has bought themselves a tablet.  After a YEAR of saving, this kid made it to their goal and brought home the long-hoped for device.

It's one thing to congratulate a kid on saving up.  It's another thing to live with the device. 

Because while they are in charge of loving it and feeding it electricity, but we all know it's you that will have to monitor it, regulate it, ensure that they remember to stop for food and maintain the ability to speak in multiple syllables to real human beings.

And then there is porn.

So in case any of your Christmas delights will include a screen or two, here are two apps worth considering.
Dinnertime is a free app that lets you control their tablet from your phone.  You can shut down their tablet for a dinner break, a study break or for sleep time.  If you go for Dinnertime Plus, you can also set time limits for the use of the tablet, time limits for an individual app or just block a particular app during homework time. Yes, you could do all this by physically removing the device but there is less friction involved when you can simply press a button and leave the device on charge in their room without having to police it.  Only available for Android tablets... but can be controlled by either an Android or iphone. HT The Vicar's Wife
Net Nanny is our content-blocker of choice at present. It is not a substitute for monitoring your children or teaching them to handle the world of the internet. However, it's a great tool for restricting some of the real and present dangers that lurk on the net. Cheap tablets often don't come with the parental control options that ipads have and so they can indeed be a totally unrestricted device. Cost is an ongoing subscription and varies depending on how many devices you want to have on your account. It's reasonably customizable: you can have your 16-year old and your 7-year old as separate users with different levels of blocking.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Mysterious Benedict Society - book review

Loved this book - it's very, very clever. It's a great middle-to-upper primary read. The story is about four highly gifted children who are selected to help defeat an evil mastermind.  The great villain can only be defeated by children and it is they that must face all kinds of difficulties, puzzles and mysteries to save the world. One of the consistent themes in the book is creative problem solving and the reader is allowed time to wonder how they are going to get out of each puzzling situation and solve the riddles as they come along.  As we read the book aloud, we stopped and discussed the various problems and tried to guess the solution.  Good fun.

But the real highlight of the book is the deeper themes it addresses: truth, courage, the need to belong, self-sacrifice and bravery.  In particular, the idea that we need to think through the messages that are fed to us (through the media, television, education etc.) and stand up for what is true and good forms a major part of the plot itself. Although this would be a fun book for an upper primary kid to read on their own, I think it is much better as a read-aloud book that you share and discuss as you go along.  That way you can hopefully launch into some really interesting discussions based on the dilemmas faced by the main characters.

A little warning though - for very sensitive children, the kidnapping and constant suspense and danger might be a bit much.  Under 8 - use caution depending on your child.  Over 8 should be fine.

I give it five stars and I'll definitely be chasing down the sequels.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Adventures on ebay


So, did you know that Fatfingers is a website dedicated to spelling mistakes on ebay?  Here's the thing: if an item is misspelt, it is harder to find and therefore doesn't get as many bids.  Possible bargain therefore.  Don't tell me I only ever serve you up luke-warm youtube clips! This is gold, my friends, gold.


I thought that was a terribly clever concept and gave it a whirl. In the process I found this:

Which brings me to the obvious question: what on earth is a IKA color squid magnetic plate stirrer???  And the less obvious question: can you guess which word I typed in to check for a misspelling?  Shouldn't be too hard to guess....

And how about this:
Love these.  Especially the 'Tis but a flesh wound'.

Friday, December 19, 2014

To all the dads out there

Thank you, dads, for all the stuff you do.  Sometimes, it's the little things you do when it really counts.  Like this dad - who saved the day when his daughter was on MasterChef.

HT 22words

Because hummus is awesome

Thursday, December 18, 2014

I Am the Very Model

If you have an interest in ancient semitic languages (which admittedly is a rather niche demographic), then you'll enjoy this:

Great inventions yet to happen

This list is awesome: solar powered a/c that cools your car when it's parked in the sun, the ability to un-press a wrongly pressed elevator button by holding it extra-long, a transparent hole-punch so you can see where the hole will go and more.

And here's the some inventions not on that list that I personally want:

* a vacuum cleaner that can automatically detect and reject lego pieces
* a version of the "kreepy-krawly" pool cleaner that would go around the shower recess and clean the tiles
* a handbag where a light comes on inside when you open it - just like the fridge!
* a Roomba-iron: just dump it in your ironing pile and it sorts it all out
* a formal report-writing program where you could tell it what you really think "lazy as all get-out" and it would translate it into edu-speak "has difficulty sustaining motivation when undertaking complex tasks".

Do you have any inventions you'd love to see?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Actiwait - ping pong for pedestrians

My kids get to the walk button at the traffic lights and press it .... over and over again. Even though the light will not change any faster.  In Germany, they have a solution for this.  It's traffic light ping pong.


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Matt Price moment 2014

Last year's winner was the "suppository of all wisdom"...

Actually, it's all a bit depressing at the moment. Like most Australians, I feel particularly jaded when thinking about federal politics these days.